Thursday, September 22, 2011

Interviewing @ eBay Part V - Dir. and VP of Engineering

My base line for interviewing senior engineering management  is the following, non-scientific, completely made up, definition:

Job of a manager is to develop & allocate resources and manage execution of projects to satisfy time, budget and quality constraints and to minimize risks and promote efficiency (repeatability of the whole process). Leadership (as in the ability to inspire and influence change) is desirable, and indeed necessary the higher one goes in the management chain.

Based on this, there are five types of questions I’d normally ask,

·        General/ice breaker: One or two questions based on resume or general questions such as Why eBay? Why now
·        Technical Management : Ability to manage large teams, projects, timelines, budgets and plans
·        Leadership: ability to conceive , evangelize and cause positive change
·        Personal: I mean to assess personal integrity, awareness, reflection
·        Field Specific: Needless to say, a director of DB engineering gets specific DB questions, director of commerce must know details of order management and payment processing VP of personalization get collaborative filtering and VP of applications get “how you build a large web app” question.

 Here are the current (and expanding) bank of question I’d normally draw from, please email me or comment if you have other suggestions...

 -        General

o   First 90 days at eBay?
o   Why eBay, Why Now?
o   Talk about the most defining event in your professional life. 
o   What are the 2,3 interesting and promising trend you see?
o   What is leadership to you? What is management to you?

There are safe and conservative answers for these questions, however answers that reflect
measured risk taking and authenticity are always preferable. 
 -        Tech Management
o   How would you structure an engineering org?
o   How do you measure the progress and success of a project?
o   How do you decide the allocation of engineering resources in multiple locations?
o   How do you manage promotion process?
o   How do you allocate bonus budget among your team members?
o   How do you see your relationship with product and architecture function?
o   How do you manage your hiring process? Who would you hire?
o   A new technology for part of your stack is emerging (e.g. a new presentation technology or a better and open sourced database, new JVM or cache …) would you replace your existing technology stack with the new one, why or why not?
o   How do make sure knowledge sharing is effective among your team members?
o   How do you ensure the quality of your delivery?
o   What is the most important job of a technology manager (pick one!), why?
o   How do you monitor the day to day tasks and assignment of your team?
o   What is your view about innovation? How do you practically manage an “innovative” team?
o   How do you deal with “NIH” – Not Invented Here – issue?
o   What is your talent development philosophy?
o   How do you chose and prepare your successor?
o   Would you direct your team to execute on a course of action you do not support?
o   How do you increase productivity? How do you measure it?
o   How do you empower your team to do "the right thing"? even when there is no time or budget for it?
-        Technology
o   How do you manage development life cycle? What development life cycle do you use?
o   What is the current technology stack you are using? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? Why it was chosen? (please don’t say “I don’t know, it was chosen before I join”)
o   How do you plan for migration from an old, stable large system to a newer version of the same system?
o   How do you feel about redundant work? is there an occasion that It may be useful?
o   When do you use open source? What are the challenges? When do you use vendors?
o   What is Agile to you? What are the benefits and challenges?
o   What 2,3 question you would like to ask about eBay technology?
o   Explain the CAP theorem.
o   What are the measures/steps you take when your system is in operation?
      The Person
o   How do you stay current of state of technology? What part of stack are you interested in the most?
o   How have you improved over the years as a manager?
o   What is your proudest moment as a manager?
o   Tell me about your biggest mistake, how did you realize it was a mistake? What did you do afterwards?
o   What is one criticism that your subordinates make about you?      
o   How can twitter be used to improve eBay?
o   How do you improve eBay? Now, I just told you to do something else – that you feel is not right - , how do you react?
o   What is your dream company to work for? Imagine now that you have an offer from that company, what should eBay do so that you work for eBay instead?
  -        Leadership
o   How do you deal with a “failing” project? Or a project in crisis?
o   Your plan requires the cooperation of another team, but that team has its own priorities and plans, how do you convince them to allocate time and resource to your project?
o   How do you influence and convince a group of people over whom you have no authority? Give an example
o    How do you mentor/coach your team member?
o   You receive a call at 2am telling you that the entire search (or checkout) is down, what do you do?
o   Two senior technical leaders (or teams) escalate a technical difference to you (MemCache v.s NoSQL or doing it now vs. doing it in the future …) how do you settle the matter?


willg said...

Thanks for this information, I've been looking into Secure Payment Processing systems because I'm trying to start my own business.

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